The Nigerian legal industry is not growing.

What do you do about a child who looks and acts 12, but whose birth certificate says 40? How do you manage a situation where appearance and reality are stark opposites?

Medically, although the Stunted Growth condition is global in nature, it has a disturbing widespread presence in Africa. Could Nigeria’s Legal Industry be suffering so much stagnancy and stunted growth because we think too much like lawyers? Sometimes we don’t follow the science. We follow the sentiment and buzz. We flock.

Stay with me.

There are job descriptions today that didn’t exist 10 years ago. For instance, you couldn’t be employed as a Social Media Manager, a Data Scientist, an SEO Specialist, a Coder, a FrontEnd Developer, a BackEnd developer, Full Stack Engineer, an Uber driver, or even a Legal Tech Advisor.

But we live in a different world today than we did in 2009.

When the #10yearChallenge hit the waves of social media many weeks back, I took some time to consider just what kind of time-capsuled pictures Technology would share if it joined the Challenge as a poster. Today, your iPhone is millions of times faster than the Apollo Computer onboard Apollo [the spaceflight that enabled the first men to land on the moon]. In a new world of the blockchain technology, geocoding, geotagging and data analytics, it’s only a matter of time before our Salomon vs Salomon, Labinjoh vs Abake, Diamond vs Chakrabarty memories give way for current realities.

Still, our learning models, justice systems, legislative processes, electoral patterns, work habits bear 1980 tags – back there in the days of floppy disks, turntables and car-size TVs.

The Nigerian legal industry is not growing.

Perhaps we are hyped in our minds about the future and all its prospects, yet dogmatic with our laws, practice styles, job titles and work ethics. Maybe we are scared to take a step into the river for fear that we may drown. Are we stunted in our approaches, unwelcoming of newer ideas and suggestions for fear that we may soon become irrelevant?

And that is the danger of it all.

For, how do we handle a future we’re unprepared for? How do we regulate an industry that’s globally moved a thousand miles while we’re still circling through streets of the Past, shuffling mountains of papers, battling hours of avoidable commuting, labouring daily to choose between having a life and a career?

The stunted growth condition is a medical anomaly by which the body continues to grow old, but stops growing up. It can plague an industry and can haunt a nation. It is like being stuck in the mud of an eternal present, while time mindlessly ticks away. Like swimming around in stagnant waters while rapping incessantly about what glory the future holds.

This post first appeared here on March 28, 2019.

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